Tragic Sobia Yousef, who killed herself in front of shoppers and staff in a Shipley supermarket, was a devoted mother destroyed by the death of her beloved youngest daughter, her grieving brother has revealed.
In an emotional interview, Imtiaz Ali told how his intelligent, loving sister suffered a mental breakdown after suddenly learning her nine-year-old daughter Mehvish was to lose a life-long battle with a deadly heart condition.
And the anguish of coping with the girl’s decline and then her death last October made Mrs Yousef so distressed she fought all attempts to help her.
“This is like a terrible dream from which we hope to wake – but we won’t,” said Mr Ali, speaking for the family.
“Although Sobia had said life wasn’t worth living and there was no point going on, we felt love for her two older children would get her through the pain of Mehvish’s death.
“Sobia was the most devoted mother, especially to the little girl.
“When Mehvish wanted to visit Disneyland in Paris three years ago, her mother used precious savings to make that dream happen.
“And when there was a family party, her children were always in new clothes – she was so proud of them and always got them the best of everything.”
Mr Ali told the sad history that led to the horrific events in Asda a week ago today.
“My sister was a happy child, good at school, and when she and her husband Tariq had their family she was totally dedicated to her own children.
“Little Mehvish was very bright and full of smiles. Although heart problems meant she struggled to breathe sometimes and couldn’t walk far, she was a wonderful girl.”
Doctors at Leeds General Infirmary operated twice to try to improve her condition and major surgery last year at first looked to have succeeded.
“Before she couldn’t walk 50 paces without being out of breath and suddenly Mehvish could run and play with the other Frizinghall children,” Mr Ali said. “Then after a couple of months she began coughing very badly and was taken back to LGI – where Sobia was suddenly told that her daughter was not going to survive much longer. She was on her own when they told her that news and when the family got to the hospital Sobia was numb with shock – shaking, unable to speak.
“She stayed there for seven days and nights without rest before the family could make her come home.
“But she would still go to the hospital at all times, getting taxis in the middle of the night sometimes.”
Becoming more distressed, things peaked when Mrs Yousef deliberately grabbed a red-hot dish from a kitchen oven with her bare hands, causing severe burns. She was then admitted to Airedale hospital for treatment, put on psychiatric drugs and discharged.
Mehvish was now being treated at Bradford Royal Infirmary where it was decided she could return to the family home, said Mr Ali.
“The idea was to train Sobia and her family how to treat Mehvish and they arranged a teaching session at a Harrogate hospital but when the ambulance from BRI arrived, Mehvish was so ill, she was sent straight back to Bradford,” he said.
Sadly the child’s condition deteriorated and the family were at the bedside when she died six months ago.
He said: “Everyone was crying, but Sobia was just staring silently. She didn’t cry at the funeral either and her mental state just got worse and worse.
“We took her to the doctors and she was a patient at Lynfield Mount, but it came down to her taking her medicine, which I fear she did not always do.”
As her behaviour became more extreme, Mrs Yousef tried to give all her jewellery to a mosque and also created a sealed bank account with cash which she insisted was for her 15-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son.
Then a week ago she sent her children off to school and walked from her home in Beamsley Road, Frizinghall, to Asda where she stabbed herself to death at 8.30am. “She had no identity with her and it was only when her daughter came back from school and found her missing did we think it might be Sobia,” Mr Ali said. “It was just such a shock. We would like to thank all those who tried to help her, especially the brave Polish nurse who risked her own safety.”
Mr Ali and his family are now coming to terms with the tragedy, but also want answers to many aspects surrounding the care and treatment of Sobia.
An inquest has been opened and adjourned into Mrs Yousef’s death pending inquiries which includes an investigation by Bradford District Care Trust which runs Lynfield Mount hospital. “One thing is we want lessons to be learned so this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Mr Ali said.
l A special meeting for Muslim women in Frizinghall to discuss mental health issues took place last night. “It will be about the state of suicide as viewed within Islam and about the care that its available to women,” said Heaton Councillor Imdad Hussain (The Peace Party, Heaton) before the meeting.